A Happy Potter Halloween

October 31 is without question the most important single calendar day in the Harry Potter series. Voldemort murdered Harry’s parents on October 31. And significant events occur on each of Harry’s first four Halloweens at Hogwarts.

Months ago, I wrote a post when the PS/SS re-read reached Harry Potter’s first Halloween Feast. Here’s a recap of that recap:

Halloween 1981. Probably the most important event in the series occurs on this Halloween – the murder of James and Lily Potter. With their murder, Harry Potter was orphaned, he acquired his scar (which is not merely a scar – but a piece of Voldemort’s soul), and as a result he became the “Chosen One” – the only one capable of destroying Voldemort.

But in addition to the impact on Harry, the deaths of Lily and James compelled a despairing Severus Snape to devote the remainder of his life to helping Dumbledore protect the Potter boy… and drove Wormtail to frame Harry’s godfather Sirius for the “murder of Peter Pettigrew” and a street filled with Muggles. Basically, this is the day that changed the lives of several of the major players.

Halloween 1991. Ten years after his parents’ murder, Harry spends his first Halloween at Hogwarts. At this point in the series, there’s no indication that Harry is aware that his parents’ deaths occurred on October 31. The Halloween Feast, though, is ruined by Quirrell’s famous “Troll in the Dungeons” announcement. Harry and Ron save Hermione from the troll, who has gone into the girl’s bathroom – thus starting the Trio’s friendship.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to keep an eye on Quirrell and head him off at the Philosopher’s Stone, Severus Snape goes into the corridor where Fluffy is guarding something. For his efforts, his Fluffy mangles his leg, awakening Harry’s suspicions of Snape.

Halloween 1992. Harry and the Trio are asked by Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost, to come to his 500th Death Day Party. Harry hears a voice (actually, the Basilisk speaking Parseltongue), and the Trio come face-to-face with the first attack by the “Heir of Slytherin.”

Halloween 1993. Harry is not allowed to go to the first Hogsmeade weekend. Instead, he has tea with Professor Lupin. When Snape brings Lupin his Wolfsbane Potion, Snape becomes suspicious of Lupin having Harry alone with him – fearing that Lupin is trying to hand Harry over to his school friend, the escaped “murderer” Sirius Black.

During the Halloween Feast, Sirius attacks the portrait of the Fat Lady, trying to force his way into Gryffindor Tower. In doing so, Sirius ends up wrongly confirming Snape’s suspicions about Lupin. Sirius’ actual co-conspirator is Hermione’s cat!

Halloween 1994. Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, making him the fourth champion in the Triwizard Tournament.

In later years, Halloween is not so clearly delineated. We don’t know exactly what happens on Halloween during the Umbridge era. All we know is that during the weekend after Halloween, Harry and the Weasley twins get a “lifetime ban” from Quidditch. What happens in 1996 and 1997 is something of a mystery.

Harry finally gets a good look at Halloween 1981 on December 24/25, 1997 – after his ill-fated trip to Godric’s Hollow. Nagini’s bite, and Harry’s subsequent delirium, cause him to “see” the attack on through Voldemort’s eyes.

Have a Happy Potter Halloween!

More House Elf Duties…

Well, it’s in the nature of things that I fulfill my House Elf duties and let readers know what has become of me.

In a nutshell, I started reading CoS… and then I got sick! I’m fine now, but I haven’t managed yet to carve out some space to talk about Harry’s trip to the Burrow… and how the Weasley Twins introduce us to dark rumblings about Lucius Malfoy and the social status associated with owning House Elves.

Please be patient. My teaching schedule has me going extremely long days on Tuesday and Thursday, which then has me playing catch-up on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And getting sick did not help matters.

Things should even out  with next semester’s schedule. But I may be a little bit sporadic for the next couple of months. Or maybe I’ll post a bunch of argumentative posts on various HP topics that interest me. :lol:

Anyway, I’m still here. And I don’t intend to go anywhere. I just need to clear some space, and then I can post freely again.

10,000 Page Views. Srsly?

Today is the busiest day this blog has seen… which is odd, given that prior to an hour ago, I hadn’t posted since last weekend.

But it seems that my Chapter Map for Chapter 1, Book 1 got posted on another blog:

And so today a post that referenced the Chapter Map got a big bump in page views.

I’m not complaining, of course. Traffic is traffic, and somebody made the very flattering decision that my map was worthy of sitting underneath JKR’s notes on the etymology of Alohomora. So I guess what this means is that maybe I should draw more Chapter maps! Not to mention use more fanart.

On most days, my most popular post is The Battle of Hogwarts Anniversary. People usually find it while looking for fanart on Fred’s death, or Lupins’ and Tonks’ deaths, or Severus Snape’s death. But today, my most popular post was Lemon Drop?… which, I must confess, is one of my favorite early posts.

Today also marks this blog’s 10,000th view. It fell below that mark by about 70 page views at the beginning of the day. Now, towards the end of the day, it has now jumped over that mark by about 55 page views.

Since this is a landmark day, I’d like to thank everybody who reads and everybody who visits and everybody who comments! My ueber-close-reading-geekiness means that I’ll never have the readership of a “first read” blog. But it’s been fun watching the traffic grow. I wonder where we’ll be at the end of DH.

Oh, and if you’d like to read a brief rundown of Harry’s first encounter with Dobby, tonight’s re-read post would be found here.

Torn Pillowcase

Back in the 1960s, Irish novelist Brian Moore published a Cold War thriller called Torn Curtain – later turned into a Major Motion Picture by Alfred Hitchcock. I don’t know what that really has to do with Dobby’s torn pillowcase except to say that both refer to torn fabrics, and both deal with undercover spy work.

Yes, little Dobby the House Elf is something of an undercover spy.

Nobody asked him to go undercover (and he’s going to have to punish himself something fierce for it), but he has spied on his own master and is working at cross-purposes to his master’s will. To use Cold War lingo, Dobby has defected to Harry – at least in his affections. And his unsought (and unappreciated) efforts come at great danger to himself.

After Dobby learns of the threat to Harry Potter (the hope, apparently, not only of the Wizarding World but even of the House Elves) he cannot keep silent. He must warn the Boy Who Lived. His warning, though, is unwelcome. After all, he’s telling Harry that he must not return to Hogwarts… and Dobby resorts to extreme measures to prevent Harry’s return – even to the point of stealing letters from Ron and Hermione and wrecking the Dursleys’ dinner party by splatting the pudding on the floor.

I don’t know how anybody else reacted, but my first encounter with Dobby came in the CoS movie… and I found him really annoying. It was shocking and uncomfortable to watch him punish himself – and make so much racket that Harry was bound to get into trouble. And then, of course, there were the really unscrupulous matters of the letters and the pudding.

But Dobby’s punishments and his tears on being treated as an equal also gave me some measure of sympathy for him. And in the end, when we find out who Dobby’s master is and the dimensions of the plot endangering Hogwarts, Harry’s final act of compassion towards Dobby becomes quite gratifying.

So… what do we learn from Dobby’s warning?

  • For months, Dobby has known that there is a plot to make “most terrible things” happen at Hogwarts, and that these terrible events will endanger Harry. (Judging by Dobby’s remarks, Harry is not the specific target, but he could still become a victim.)
  • Dobby believes that Harry is too important for the future of the Wizarding World to be allowed to endanger himself
  • The plot, Dobby claims, does not derive from Voldemort – but the Elf’s inability to speak against his master and his simultaneous inability to tell the dimensions of the plot lead us to infer that the plot derives from Dobby’s (currently unknown) master
  • Dobby speaks of “powers Dumbledore doesn’t… powers no decent wizard….” Horcruxes!!! Yes, the first unnamed reference to Horcruxes comes from Dobby.
  • Dobby believes the danger is grave enough that he levitates the Dursleys’ pudding to the ceiling and drops it on the floor in order to bring down the wrath of the Dursleys on Harry

The end result is that Harry is imprisoned in his room as Hedwig has been imprisoned in her cage! He’s being starved, and things are looking pretty bleak, when the Weasleys arrive with a deus ex machina. And yes, it literally is a machine!

Here’s how the kitteh’s LiveTweeted Cos, Chapter 2.

Opening the Chamber of Secrets

No, I didn’t lie to you. I said that I would commence Chamber of Secrets on Friday… and I did. The only reason you didn’t know about it is that Annie’s Guest Post on Draco came through on the same day, and I wanted her to have some time in the spotlight.

But now, it’s back to the re-read… with perhaps some additional intermittent Guests.

So yes, I did start re-reading CoS on Friday. And my kittehs even started LiveTweeting it yesterday afternoon! (Who says you can’t herd cats?).

I mentioned that I’d like to do a Quick Read of CoS before getting down to in-depth commentary – talking about favorite things and stuff that jumps out at me. So here goes.

From Chapter 1:

Dudley, who was so large his bottom drooped over either side of the kitchen chair, grinned and turned to Harry.

“Pass the frying pan.”

“You’ve forgotten the magic word,” said Harry irritably.

The effect of this simple sentence on the rest of the family was incredible: Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.

“I meant ‘please’!” said Harry quickly. “I didn’t mean – ”

“WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU,” thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, “ABOUT SAYING THE ‘M’ WORD IN OUR HOUSE?”

Okay, yeah. I know. It’s slapstick, and it’s over the top. But it’s also hysterical. The description of the Dursley response is precisely like what happens in horror movies when the monster or the slasher or the black-gloved giallo killer comes crashing in to your home.

In addition to the slapstick, this chapter reminds us of some still unanswered questions – like how did Harry survive a curse from the “greatest Dark sorcerer of all time?” Why did Harry have to be raised by his dead mother’s sister and her husband, when there were probably lots of nice Wizarding families who would have treated Harry like a boy, and not a slave? Why are the Dursleys so completely freaked out by magic?

It reminds us also of some never-answered questions – like How do the Dursleys get away with abusing this child, according to Muggle law? And why does the Wizarding World allow the abuse?

And of course, the chapter even poses some new questions:

  • Why has Harry received no cards or letters, when Ron and Hermione specifically said they would write to him over the summer? Have his friends forgotten him?
  • What is staring out at Harry from the hedge with “two enormous green eyes”?
  • What is sitting on Harry’s bed?

At this point, it’s possible for first-time readers to believe that maybe Uncle Vernon could be responsible for Harry not receiving his letters. After all, he’s locked Hedwig in her cage so that Harry can’t send letters. And in the previous year, when letters arrived from Hogwarts, Vernon Dursley did everything in his power to prevent Harry from receiving them. Or, it’s possible to believe that Ron and Hermione are just school friends who have their own lives during the summer. Readers will soon find out which of these is the case.

The thing staring at Harry is a wonderful touch because it also foreshadows the “Grim” staring at Harry in PoA right before the Knight Bus shows up to whisk him away. Of course, the reader doesn’t know about PoA yet… has barely even heard Sirius Black’s name! But JKR does a nice job of paralleling these two instances.

And as for what’s sitting on Harry’s bed… well, that is certainly the big question, isn’t it? Friend or foe? As the kittehs noted: it could be anyone… from one of the friends he hasn’t heard from, to someone he’s never met before, to Lord Voldemort himself!

Since the reader has not been told yet that Voldemort cannot touch Harry while he’s under his aunt’s roof, even this supremely frightening possibility is on the table for first-time readers. And given the scary nature of the green eyes staring from the hedge, and given Harry’s recent frightening encounter at Hogwarts, I might have been more inclined toward the sinister reading… if the movies had not already shown me who was about to arrive in Harry’s life.

Guest Post: Draco dormiens nunquam titillandusa

by AnnieLogic

Guest blogger AnnieLogic provides a nice counterbalance to my much less favorable review of Draco’s first encounter with Harry Potter…

Draco holds a distinction: he is the first notable character to attempt to befriend Harry, while being unaware of the celebrity beside him. In fact, Draco tries to make small talk with Harry, while the latter is wearing scruffy hand-me-down Muggle clothes and a very obvious patch-up job on his broken glasses. Draco does not appear to snub Harry from the initial outset for the sake of appearances.

Yet Draco’s conduct and manner of address – notably in regards to his parents and how he intends to get his own way – remind Harry strongly of his cousin. These memories of Dudley, complete with a conglomerate of negative feelings associated with them, mean that Harry may be projecting onto an unfamiliar person. It provides wriggle room for a misunderstanding early on.

Due to feeling increasingly stupid about his lack of knowledge concerning the Wizarding World, Harry becomes uncomfortable at Draco’s enthusiastic talk of Quidditch and Hogwarts’ Houses. Even Hagrid (who, unlike Draco, knew how much in the dark the Dursley’s had condemned Harry to be) exclaimed later:

“Blimey, Harry, I keep forgettin’ how little yeh know — not knowin’ about Quidditch!”

Later the reader sees further that students place Hogwarts Houses – as well as the much-loved Wizarding sport, Quidditch – at the forefront of their minds, so Draco’s choice of a conversational subject was seemingly friendly and no different than that of other future students, or indeed adults.

The downward spiral continues as Draco talks disdainfully of Hagrid. Understandably, and compassionately, Harry is defensive of his first wizarding friend – who showed him kindness, generosity and acceptance. This trait of Draco’s – to belittle and taunt those he believes to be his inferiors – is exhibited in various topics throughout the first year: topics concerning family, social status, intellect and skill, wealth and provisions:

“I do feel so sorry,” said Draco Malfoy, one Potions class, “for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they’re not wanted at home.”

“Would you mind moving out of the way?” came Malfoy’s cold drawl from behind them. “Are you trying to earn some extra money, Weasley? Hoping to be gamekeeper yourself when you leave Hogwarts, I suppose — that hut of Hagrid’s must seem like a palace compared to what your family’s used to.”

“See, there’s Potter, who’s got no parents, then there’s the Weasleys, who’ve got no money — you should be on the team, Longbottom, you’ve got no brains.”

“Longbottom, if brains were gold you’d be poorer than Weasley, and that’s saying something.”

When Harry replies shortly to Draco’s enquiry about his parents, and Draco responds “Oh sorry” (a fairly standard, civil way to reply to a complete stranger), Harry seems to take unnecessary offence, thinking Draco doesn’t sound sorry at all. However, the notion is swiftly dispelled when Draco adds, “But they were our kind, weren’t they?” as if to imply non-magical folk are of scant enough worth to mourn their loss.

Perhaps Draco could have enquired as to what happened, or where and with whom does Harry now live. However, in some circles this would probably be considered extremely intrusive questions to ask a stranger – particularly if the stranger turned abrupt, which would be a warning sign not to delve further into private matters. Re-enforcing this, the reader later observes Molly on the platform scolding the insensitivity of her children – first Ginny, for wanting go look at Harry as if he were a specimen in a zoo; secondly, Fred and George for proposing to ask Harry questions about the fateful circumstances under which he lost his parents.

Draco goes on to express an intolerant view of Muggleborns. Introduced here is another of Draco’s traits: being a constant mouthpiece for his parent’s views, particularly parroting and using the name of his father, Lucius Malfoy, and its weighty lineage.

In Tales of Beedle the Bard, the notes reveal Lucius Malfoy strove to get that very book, which contains Muggle-friendly teachings, banned from the Hogwarts curriculum. This fact allows the reader an insight into how tight a rein Lucius exerted on what Draco was exposed to in his first eleven years. It doesn’t justify or excuse the character, it does however give an idea of how Draco’s personality and morals were strictly influenced and moulded – showing why he chooses to ally and associate with those of desirable profile (in his opinion), who are subservient to his wishes, or who possess suitable beliefs.

The set up for Draco alienating and developing a rivalry with Harry, is repeated when Draco insults and tries to trump Ron, and a newly developed bond, despite it being a retaliation to a veiled snigger at his name.

Throughout the story, in a developing pattern of animosity, Draco slowly descends from snotty spoiled child further into the bully and antagonist role.

AnnieLogic authors the LiveJournal custos noctis.